Monday, May 2, 2016

Dangerous pollutant spreading in Pompton groundwater?

A cancer-causing pollutant in the groundwater beneath a Pompton Lakes neighborhood was also detected in a nearby residential well in Wayne, raising the possibility that the contamination could be migrating under Pompton Lake to the other side.

James M. O'Neill
reports in The (Bergen) Record:

State and federal officials say the pollutant — TCE, a solvent — is found in cleaners, paints and other products commonly used by homeowners and that one of these could have been the source of the pollution that showed up in the Wayne well.

And officials overseeing cleanup of the contaminated groundwater beneath hundreds of homes in Pompton Lakes have said for years that the pollution wasn’t likely to migrate deep beneath the lake to the Wayne side.

However, two independent hydrogeologists, who looked at the geology underlying the region at The Record’s request, say it’s certainly possible the contamination could have traveled under Pompton Lake and then been detected in the residential well in the Pines Lake section of Wayne.

“It has been in the ground for decades, so it could easily move by tens of feet per year,” said David Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist at Pennsylvania State University. “These contaminants, I have found, can go right under rivers.”
Indeed, chromium that spilled at an industrial site in Garfield decades ago and spread beneath hundreds of homes has migrated under the Passaic River and was detected on the other side in the city of Passaic.

Yoxtheimer and John Schuring, a hydrogeologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said that, given the contamination detected in the one well in Wayne during two tests in 2011, it would be prudent for the other residential wells in the Pines Lake neighborhood to be tested.

Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano said that to his knowledge there was no systematic effort to test the other wells in the Pines Lake neighborhood after the pollutant was found in the well.

“I’m a little surprised there has not been testing on the Wayne side of the lake,” Yoxtheimer said. “Pompton Lake is shallow and there’s deeper groundwater flowing there.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection said that while TCE, or trichloroethene, is one of the pollutants under homes in Pompton Lakes, the solvent is also present in paint strippers, adhesive removers, rug cleaners, disinfectants, varnishes and paints, and that one of these may have been the source.

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